Gomer and Me

Sow righteousness for yourselves; reap the fruit of unfailing love (Hosea 10:12).

 The word of God is amazing! Every word, story, and message that God has chosen to be scripted by His inspired writers is there purposefully. One story which is historical, allegorical, and still relevant to us almost 3000 years later is the book of Hosea.

Hosea, a prophet of God was instructed to take a specific woman as his wife. Her name was Gomer and with a name like that, she was probably bullied in school and carried a lot of baggage. Gomer was a harlot prior to her marriage, and was unfaithful to Hosea throughout their marriage.

Gomer, in this account, represents the unfaithfulness of Israel to God, Himself, but she also represents us today. Her story involves immorality, infidelity, idolatry, repentance, forgiveness, and undying love.

The first of God’s commandments, You shall have no other gods before Me is one that I originally thought meant idols—Buddha statues or foreign gods like Zeus or Neptune. I had never considered that anything that takes a priority over my relationship with God is an idol. Like possessions, or entertainment, or even church, or serving, or friends, or work, or even our family. And although none of these are bad, in fact they are gifts from God, it’s when we stray from following God’s guidelines for money, for serving, for work, for relationships, and when we neglect our most important relationship, that we are guilty of idolatry.

Just as Hosea continually sought after Gomer, God longs for us to return to Him. He wants us to be restored, and He wants to demonstrate His faithfulness to us even amid our unfaithfulness.

There are many lessons here and throughout God’s word, and they’re all about God’s character—grieving when we desert Him, forgiving, restoring, and always faithfully proving to us His grace, mercy and undying love.

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What Determines Self Worth

So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir (Gal 4:7).

There is a story about the Rockefellers that goes something like this. The patriarch of the family, J.D. (weren’t they all Johns or J.D.s), loved his sons and didn’t want them to be ruined by being handed a fortune, so he sent them for a time to work in the oil fields.

The work there was hard and dirty and the conditions were detestable. Husbands who left their families to earn money for them, would often end up gambling or drinking it away. But the Rockefeller boys remained unscathed because of their mindset. They knew that one day, after they learned and experienced what they needed to, J.D. would call them home. They knew that their daddy owned the corporation.

Once we are adopted into God’s family through our acceptance of the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, we too become His dearly loved children. Heirs.

Although our desire should be to develop the conduct and temperament of Jesus, our value is not dependent on anything else. Not our successes, nor abilities. Not our weight nor finances. Not our intelligence or strength or personality or religiousness. We don’t need to prove our worth or value. We just are. Because our Daddy owns the corporation.

Judge Not

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. With what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you (Matt7:1-2).

There are some scriptures that I don’t really like, not because they are not true or helpful, but because they are true and convict me of things that I don’t like to face or believe about myself.

Like verse 4 of the above passage asks, “How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?”  I have that same speck in my own eye, only it’s exponentially worse. Every fault that I find in another can be found deep within my own heart (ugh).

I’m not trying to make excuses, because I know this is an area about which I need to address, but isn’t this part of everyone’s sinful nature? Aren’t we always judging others as a typical, routine, commonplace activity?

I think the key to complying with this verse is to define judgement as criticism as in “Don’t criticize or we too will be criticized.” Personally, when I find that someone is being critical of something that I have said or done, often (not always) the situation or details have been misinterpreted or that person only knows part of the story. We really need to offer this same consideration (grace) to others and be aware of anything that causes us to think of ourselves in any way as superior to another.

Verse 2 is especially uncomfortable, but definitely worth repeating…  For we will be treated as we treat others, that is, the standard we use in judging is the standard by which we will be judged.

I pray for the eyes of the Father, for help in being gracious with others so that I too, will be shown grace.

Good and Perfect

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17).

 I don’t know where today’s entry is going to go. I had an idea and wanted to meditate on the first part of this verse, but when I looked it up to correctly quote it, the second part jumped off the page— the Father of the heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows.

Many people had an unstable parent whose behavior was so unpredictable that the same behavior would be praised one day and cruelly punished the next. They lived in a constant state of caution, apprehension and insecurity, never knowing what to expect. And many had (or are) a parent who tries to be consistent and follow biblical principles, but very often falls short.

But God IS consistent, consistently good. Consistent in kindness, mercy, grace, patience, justice…and love. We can be comfortable in knowing that what is pleasing to Him today won’t bring about a chastisement tomorrow. We can be assured in knowing that when He disciplines us, that it is 100% out of love to mold and teach, not to punish.

Well, I guess I never got to discuss those “good and perfect gifts.” Our focus shouldn’t be there anyway, but rather on the One who does not change like shifting shadows, the Good and Perfect Giver.

Exposing the Enemy

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

I recently watched a disturbing video based on a true story about a pastor who was definitely on fire and effective in sharing the gospel—a prime target for the enemy. At one point he began questioning God’s character which balances both love and justice. In his words, “We need to re-think God.”

As believers we have no problem accepting God’s love. His justice shouldn’t be a conflict either when we think of it coupled to another of His attributes—mercy. Can you imagine a caring teacher or a loving parent who always demonstrated love without justice? Or justice without love and mercy? In each case the result would be a nightmare. In extremes, the result would be a child or adult who would be an emotionally dysfunctional mess with no direction, and not feeling loved either.

Through His mercy, the penalty for our sin was paid for by ultimate love—God sent His beloved Son, Jesus Christ as our substitute. Compared to the eternal consequences, our part is easy. If we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, we are saved. And living according to His plan (laws/guidelines) is a benefit to us as individuals and a favor to the human race.

False teachers are not new. They began at the beginning of the first century church. Paul warned that people will turn away from truth and gather around teachers who say “what their itching ears want to hear.”

Today, Hollywood effectively does this all the time.

The above scripture from Peter cautions us to be vigilant. It is so easy to fall into a set of beliefs that seem loving and accepting, but in fact are destructive. And nothing pleases the enemy more than confusing and bringing down believers.

The life of faith in the truths of scripture may step on our toes rather than tickle our ears, but the truths of the scripture bring guidance and stability; grace and mercy; wisdom and comfort…and eternal life.

God is Good

You are good, and what You do is good (Ps 119:68a).

There are quite a few verses throughout scripture that woven together, describe God’s goodness and what our response to His goodness should be. In Romans we are taught that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, and who have been called according to His purpose. We sometimes experience a disconnect when we think, in our eyes, ______ (insert your own tragedy or challenge here)            can’t possibly result in anything good.

A buzz phrase today is “to be intentional” and that is a fitting way to define God’s goodness. It is purposeful, never meaningless nor random. God’s purpose, to conform us to the likeness of His Son, is a much greater good than our comfort at the moment. Our definition of good is both temporal and temporary rather than spiritual and eternal.

This brings us to another challenging verse about God’s goodness, Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ______ (insert your own tragedy or challenge here too)     .  This verse certainly requires some prayer and study. But we can know–we can be absolutely sure–that God’s actions are motivated by love, and that the end result will be worth it, and good.

Going through tough times is tough. But God’s word gives us promise after promise of His faithfulness in walking us through trials, in giving us strength, in giving us endurance, in supplying everything we need.

His grace is more than enough.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow (pursue) me all the days of my life.

Paradise Lost …and Found

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one Man the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19).

The world in which Adam and Eve lived would have been perfect in every way—weather, temperature, lush fruits, incredible surroundings, nothing to diminish their enjoyment of knowing God in a most intimate way. And God had companionship directly with them. When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden.

Of course, we know that didn’t end well. When sin entered the world, our holy God could not be in the presence of sin.

All our sins from merely embellishing the truth to inflicting horrific torture can be traced back to our inheritance of this sinful nature. Left to our own devises unconstrained, we fall back into greed, envy, selfishness, pride, gluttony… All the sins we commit are a manifestation of this sinful nature.

But God had a redeeming plan from the start to restore His cherished fellowship with mankind for those who so choose. When Jesus suffered as our substitute He was sinless, but He assumed our sinful nature long enough to defeat it. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  

This is so well explained in the words of this song:

                  “I am covered over with the robe of righteousness that Jesus gives to me. 

                   When [God] looks at me He sees not what I use to be, but He sees Jesus.”

We can have fellowship with God now in the spirit, and can look forward to someday walking with Him in the cool evening breezes.